Part I: Perception
So I’m 41. I don’t feel 41, but that’s not new. I’ve never felt my age. Well, except for my early 20s, I felt those. I played an Oscar worthy role in the hit series, College Student from 1999-2006. What is it to feel your age? What does a number feel like? Maybe age is not so much how YOU feel, but rather, how you’re perceived by others.
My 30s felt a bit like my teenage years: not a child, not quite a grown-up. People in their 20s think you’re old or just trying too hard; people in their 40s(+) are fans of saying, gosh, I remember what it was like to be in my 30s, you just a bebe.
Work-wise I couldn’t win. Too old for my co-workers. Too young for my clients. Too abrasive. Too many visible tattoos. Always too something. One time I was challenged by a slimy car dealer disguised as a CMIO: What could you possibly know about strategy? Ooof. Enough to know I don’t know everything, so at the very least, slightly more than you? At what age is it okay for me to have a “real” job? Am I there yet? Will I ever be? Do I even care? Nah. Eventually I just stopped climbing and burned the ladder. Now I’m floating around in some strange ethos-phere and you guys, it’s wild out here.
I’m lucky to have friends of all ages, and to the older ones, I’ll always be young(er). They warn me not to make the same mistakes they did, but of course I will, because they are mine to make. Back when Covid was growing its tentacles, when we were Zooming and drinking alone together until the wee hours of the morning, after a particularly juicy tell-all filled with sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, my friend Tom (70s) exited the chat by slamming his laptop, clearly upset by something I said at some point. And I said A LOT of things. After a prolonged guessing game of which part of my story pissed him off enough for the silent treatment laptop slam, I learned I was being shunned for how I voted one year. Okay maybe two. Over 20 years ago. Shouldn’t we be celebrating my growth? No? We all got our things.
I get it. I have younger friends too, ones I accidentally bestow my wisdom upon sometimes. I mean, it IS fun to finally know something about being alive. But even I realize there’s a line, and there’s a limit. Life’s gotta be lived, not just warned about. But heck yeah, I’ll be here to trade stories when you think you’ve done something there’s no coming back from. As they say, this too shall pass, and They are not wrong. I can still feel the embarrassment of being spanked in front of my childhood crush after I tried to look cool doing a sweet trick on my bike which somehow caused my younger sister to crash. It became my embarrassment barometer, which strangely got me through some pretty embarrassing teenage moments.
Speaking of. The older I get, the scarier the youthzzz become, especially those teenagers. I now have a different understanding of that My Chemical Romance line: teenagers scare the living shit outta me, they could care less as long as someone’ll bleed.
So maybe our perception of other people of various ages and their perception of us, whether it’s true or not, maybe that is what age is really all about. Perception.
I guess the only thing binding us all together now is T.Swift, and that is a sword I’m willing to die on.
No pressure Taylor. Keep ’em coming.
Part II: Perceived Reality
Growing up, there was a house kids knew about, many told lies about, but only a few could tell an actual real life tale. I can’t accurately recall if I was in the second bucket or the third. Can I see the house in my head because all of the stories told by older kids year after year? Was I the one telling the real stories or the second-hand ones? Did I simply see inside a window once? The past is confusing AF.
Either way, I have a vivid recollection of hearts. Hearts, hearts, hearts. Floor-to-ceiling hearts covering every inch of every wall, every flat surface meticulously plastered in wallpaper hearts. Big red hearts, little pink hearts, tiny white hearts speckled all over. Creepy and amazing. Amazingly creepy. The House of Hearts.
I also remember mixed feelings about this house and the man who lived in it. When you hear House of Hearts, your imagination can take off in a lot of directions. We’ll just leave it at that because my childhood memory cannot be trusted and there’s no need to defame an old man with an obsessive penchant for hearts. And also I was 8. “Old” could have been 26. And also, I want to believe he was just an eccentric man expressing himself, and who are we to judge.
And alsoooo. I’m not saaaaaying I am anywhere close to the Heart House Man, but I am saying I can see hoooow, given enough time and life circumstances, a penchant might…get away from you. You were in control. Until suddenly, you were not. And now, here we are.
Basically, I’ve leaned in and there’s no leaning back out. A couple Covid years stuck at home will do that. My house is intense. In color. In plants. In patterns. In things that light up. I’m experimenting with wallpaper as we speak, and I fear the result may be something only its creator can enjoy.
Christmas complicates things. I’ve always liked the idea of holiday spirit, but had difficulty justifying the effort. I now aspire to be that weird lady in the House on the Corner, and for people to just know which corner. But like, slightly less creepy than the House of Hearts.
It starts small, as these things are wont to do. Like when Lisa suggested putting the leg lamp from A Christmas Story on my new flat garage roof with a simple string of colored vintage lights. It was too windy and cold to take it to the end, so after six-ten minutes of effort, I triumphantly placed the lamp on a table on my front porch and it looks so good, I can’t imagine why I’d take it down come January. And the lights. Since when does Christmas call dibs on all strings of lights?
I don’t know. This is the kind of shit that brings me joy these days, as much to my amazement as anyones. And I’ve started to take this joy ride on the road…
Part III: Reality
Meaning my holiday fashion at home has spilled over to my fashion outside the home. Like, I have a legit winter hat that lights up. And a sweater dotted in Santas with fuzzy beards wearing sparkle hats. And *multiple* Christmas earrings. I’m just…going for it. Nothing sadder than a half-mast freak flag.
Anyway, a few weekends ago I went to see Les Miserables in Milwaukee with my friend Erica. I’ve been mildly obsessed with it ever since my 9th grade choir teacher made us sing all the songs. That night, somewhere in the middle of the three hour play, I realized we only sang the good ones, unfortunately leaving like two hours of…meh. Fight me.
With only 30ish appropriate days to wear my holiday best, I obviously wore it. I booked pre-game dinner at a nice restaurant right across from the hotel and within walking distance to the theater. It’s not that I’m lazy, I just like to maximize fun and commuting in Wisconsin winter can be rough. We had just left Pufferfish, the rooftop bar in our hotel, where I ordered the drink called Pufferfish, which came in a ceramic bubble fish actually smoking on a cinnamon stick. The kind of place with velvet wingback furniture and every plant for sale, too cool for me bartenders and next level lighting. So it was a bit jarring to walk across the street to our restaurant, where everything seemed much more…adult. Reserved. Mature. Boring?
As per usual, I made bar seat reservations, which Erica has maybe started to appreciate? I mean, I don’t just sit at the bar for me, I sit at the bar for Them. And everyone there seemed kind of miserable. I didn’t have to ask Erica what she thought, I could feel her discomfort next to me. I could also feel myself awkwardly trying to match the established mood. I took off my huge winter jacket and could just feel all of the Santas staring at everyone, or maybe everyone was staring at all the Santas. But when the sommelier bartender asked me if I took part in some local Santa event, I broke. God no, these are my fancy clothes, and proceeded to show him my black sequined skirt and winter wedge boots (because, Wisconsin) as proof. After that I remembered it’s always best to be yourself and decided to make the mood match the established Tosh.
The older couple next to Erica looked particularly uppity. Feeling like myself again I whispered loudly to Erica.
Do you want to ask them if my sweater brings them joy?
Erica, horrified, Tosha, No.
Just then the folks next to me left and were replaced by another classy duo.
Fine, I’ll ask my people if it brings them joy.
Oh yes, it brings me SO much joy. And I must ask, where did you get it?
Oh at this fancy boutique, you probably haven’t heard of it, AmAHzahn?
She repeats it. Several times. I wait. Look of recognition crosses face. She slaps my arm. Oooh, that’s a good one. I’ll have to use that.
I turn smugly back to Erica, but she’s talking to the couple next to her, who have been transformed into an unrecognizable happy, animated pair. Turns out, they were never snooty or grumpy, just retired, married for 40 years and in comfortable company. They’d said all they needed to say to each other a few years ago. Thus, the bar seats.
By the end we had spoken kindly with, received a genuine smile or knowing nod from everyone sitting at the bar. At least from my perceived reality. And that my friends, is how you get a to-go cup with Welcome to your very own aquarium! Name your new fish! on it filled with wine from a delicious fancy restaurant.
“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.”Marjorie Barstow Greenbie
Pufferfish @ Pufferfish | drinking the Pufferfish on a Wisconsin rooftop in 16° weather | to-go fish cup o’wine.
I didn’t take any photos of my Holiday Best, but probably best for your imagination to fill that part in.
5 thoughts on “does my sweater bring you joy? (a story in three parts)”
Dude, the older I get, the more I understand that age is only a construct of attitude and behavior. We all know “old” 3o-year-olds as well as young people in their 50s…I’d like to think of myself as one of those young 52 year-olds because I still embrace some of the silly things in the world. I think you do too…and it’s pretty cool. Keep embracing the joy, cuz…..
Love it. LOVE IT! I need one of those fish! Or two. Or a whole set.
And yes, your sweater, dog, fish, trip to Milwaukee and your festive fairy lights bring me lots of joy. Wishing you the same in 2023.
x Susan and Maddie the rescue cat x
Tosh.5. You got your groove back. You knew it would come when you needed it. Way to be patient.
yup, jobs is def on the annualish feelings update. I got into a place of stability in 2019, then walked out of it in 2022
Fun insights on aging…41 is an interesting age…Not quite old or young…just up to you to decide:) Also–love that your burnt the ladder, so did I!